Do you know how to PLAY?
Happy Monday, friend! The weekend has come and gone—what did you do? Anything fun? Did you PLAY at all?
“Play” is something I’ve thought a lot about the past few months because, well—this is embarrassing—but I think I’m pretty bad at it.
Or perhaps, I just have lost touch with what it really means, or more importantly, how it feels to play.
Here’s the thing: I love to work. Really!
I LOVE what I do and I feel so lucky to do it. But that’s just part of it. The deeper issue is that I feel like I NEED to be productive at all times.
I need to be BUSY and doing something to help my business or someone else in my life, to validate myself and my time.
I feel guilty taking time off, or for myself.
But what I’ve come to learn and acknowledge is that this mindset isn’t healthy! And I’m not the only one who is stuck there—maybe you are, too?
I started researching the importance of play, and not only was I in disbelief with what research has shown and its importance to our mental, emotional and physical health as adults—but I was also terrified because I feel like I don’t know how to do it.
So first, what is play?
Play is defined in many ways, but the crux of it is doing something for fun, without worrying about the end result.
The latter part of that statement makes it really hard for me or anyone else who validates their time through productivity. The end result can’t be a factor, or else we have other motives. The motive must just be: play! Have fun.
So I thought, how can I start to play more? Of course, my first step was to make a list of things I like to do. This sort of worked, but I’m a kill-at-least-3-birds-with-one-stone kinda gal, so I caught myself trying to turn fun into efficiency pretty quickly.
“I like to craft. Maybe I can make something for someone as a Christmas gift?”
“I like to dance, even though I’m not great at it—maybe I can go to a Zumba class and get my workout in?”
*insert buzzer sound*
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with taking time to craft a gift for someone and enjoy it while you do it, or to have fun while taking a Zumba class—but I want to challenge you here to think about when the last time you played JUST for fun, without that extra motive there?
For me, it had been a long time since I’d experienced play.
As I continued my quest for spontaneous, vulnerable, adult play, I beat myself up a lot.
It was really hard for me to break my A-Type planning personality, and it still is. But the more intention I put behind it, the more awareness I created, and gradually, over weeks and months, things started to shift… They are still shifting.
I wouldn’t call myself a spontaneous master of play by any means, but I’ve started to notice myself loosen up quite a bit—and it’s pretty fascinating to observe.
Something you may not know about me: I’m a Christmas fanatic.
September comes around and I’m that annoying person that’s ready to skip all the other holidays, turn my house into a winter wonderland and play ALL the Christmas music.
That’s not new for me in 2018, but with play on my mind this year, what is new is me embracing that excitement and allowing it to lack efficiency or productivity.
A few weekends ago, I spontaneously suggested to Christian that we build a fort in our living room. It was so fun!
We went to the grocery store and grabbed some cookie dough (not the healthy kind), baked up way too many cookies, and ate them in the fort watching Christmas movies. We slept in the fort all night! It was so fun, and totally unplanned.
That was a big “play” moment for me, and it was cool to witness as it was happening.
There are smaller moments that still mean just as much, like loosening up and dancing when I feel like it, or calling it quits on work an hour early to make banana bread for myself (not for Mind Over Munch).
These are small things, but they bring a special level of joy to my life—one that I can’t access when I’m trying so hard to make everything “count.”
As always, I’m a work in progress.
Some of you probably have playing down a lot better than I do. But I bet some of you beat yourselves up a lot, too, and maybe feel similar—that you can’t let yourselves play, or don’t remember or know how.
If that’s you, I hope you can take some time soon to think about playing, and actually do it, too! Take advantage of the holiday season and make it fun. Here are some tips to get started that helped me:
- Make play a goal—spend time thinking about it to bring some intention to that area of your life.
- Make a list of things you enjoyed to do as a kid. Go back over the list and highlight the things you still like to do! Then add any additional activities that you’ve come to enjoy as an adult.
- Make a bucket list! It doesn’t mean you’re going to check everything off today, or ever, but it gets you in the mindset to start thinking about things you want to do, now or later!
- Set aside a certain amount of time per day or week that you can set as a Fun Minimum. Add this time to your schedule and try to stick with it! If/when it does not happen (because playing is seriously hard if you’re not used to it), don’t beat yourself up. Be nice to yourself, and instead of being mean, be curious.
- Team up with a partner or friend and commit to play together. The accountability can really help stick with it, and come up with new ideas, too!
- Hang out with a kid. Kids know how to play! Even if they don’t play the way I would play now, I can always learn something from a kid having fun. How can I foster that care-free, efficiency-free, productivity-free nature in my own life?
So, what do you think? Do you have play down? Or could you use some more play in your life?
Sending you light, love and cheer,